Our Community Manager, Erin O’Reilly, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, has been published in the August 2017 issue of CAI New Jersey's Community Trends magazine. Her article highlights the importance of emergency preparedness and the appropriate procedures you can implement in your high-rise if a disaster strikes.
Are You Ready?
By Erin O'Reilly, CMCA, AMS, PCAM
Is your site ready if an emergency or disaster strikes? If you had managed the Grenfell Towers in London during the fire, or Logan Airport when the car struck pedestrians - would you and your team know what to do? Whether you are a seasoned manager or new to the industry, it is important for you and your staff to know the appropriate emergency procedure and how to mitigate further risks.
While writing emergency procedures may seem like an overwhelming endeavor, it helps to break it down into smaller tasks, just like your college research paper. To start, it is important not only to know your property, but to understand the type of equipment your property houses. The first step would be to make a list with the type of equipment, equipment location, dates for servicing/testing, and service contractor information. Next is to reach out to the service providers and local city enforcement agencies to see if they can assist in helping you prepare your emergency procedures or provide you with guidelines as to what they suggest should be included.
In high-rises, requirements tend to be different than what is necessary for a townhouse community. Fire Emergency Procedures should include, but are not limited to: name and contact information for the property’s fire safety manager; location for your fire command radios; fireman phones; BIC (Building Information Card); drawings; and fireman elevator keys. Many properties have a PA system which will allow residents to hear instructions as to how to proceed in the event of an emergency. Posting right where the PA system is located should include instructions on how to use the PA system and a script to recite in order to help deliver a clear and precise message to the residents. Be sure to include if residents should remain in place or evacuate the building, and if evacuating, which specific stairwell should be used and a reminder that people should expect elevators to be turned off during a fire. When the residents do evacuate the building, it is important to tell them where the meet-up location is outside the building. Using your newsletter or holding fire safety meetings are other great ways to reinforce these procedures with your residents and make the information second nature to everyone. Incidentally, Local Fire Departments are usually happy to attend meetings and help teach.
Practice Fire Drills just like an elementary school. Holding fire drills not only allows the staff to be more familiar with their requirements during a fire, but also reminds the residents what to do. Suggest having floor wardens in your building as these volunteers can assist in the event of an emergency and help with maintaining order during a crisis.
Including a back-up procedure in the event that there is a fire system impediment is also important. From time to time, equipment breaks down and your building may not be at its best. Knowing what to do in these types of situations is just as important. High-rises usually have to go into a Fire Watch. This means notifying the local fire prevention department of your building’s issue; notifying the residents in writing about the issue and what precautions should be observed; having a staff member, fire warden or volunteer over 18 years old with a working cell phone pass by each door every 15 minutes and complete a log until fire watch is complete. It is important to notify your fire alarm monitoring system and insurance company in writing of Fire Watch (both when it starts and when it is completed).
Another hot topic in today’s society is Active Shooters. Having emergency procedures in place geared for this unfortunate possibility can be crucial. Insurance Companies, police departments and other federal agencies (such as the Department of Homeland Security) have plenty of resources to help you plan your protocol for this emergency. The bottom line is that unpredictable emergencies happen every day. Managers who can prepare and teach their team how to react will help lower the risk of injuries and property damage. Don’t forget that insurance companies, service providers and local government agencies can also help you with your procedures and guidelines.